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Rabies in South Africa

16 Feb 2012

An outbreak of animal rabies is ongoing in KwaZulu-Natal Province in the surrounging areas of Bergville, Winterton, Emmaus, Colenso and Loskop. A number of human exposures to rabies have been reported but at this time, no suspected or clinical human cases have been identified.

In resonse to the outbreak, a mass animal vaccinataion campaign is underway which is being lead by local and state veterinarians.

In Eastern Cape Province, a 16-year-old male died from rabies virus infection in January 2012. The young man was bitten by a dog on the leg whilst sleeping out of doors. He started a course of post-exposure rabies vaccine but was admitted to hospital two weeks after the incident showing signs of rabies infection.

The greater Johannesburg region has reported repeated outbreaks of rabies in the domestic animal population over the past two years. In 2010, 42 cases of canine rabies were confirmed in Gautang Province which resulted in one human case. In 2011, canine rabies was reported in March and again in October. In recent months the risk of canine rabies has decreased but animal owners are encouraged to vaccinate their pets to prevent reintroduction of rabies to the province.

Advice to Travellers

Travellers should be aware of the rabies risk in South Africa and avoid contact with animals and dogs in particular. Rabies pre-exposure vaccine is available for those considered to be at risk.